Tag Archives: Tomatoes

A Silky Soup for September

Spiced and Silken Roast Vegetable Soup

A Change in the Seasons

OK, so I was clearing out the fridge, but this is a great way to use the last tomatoes and aubergines of the season, and the first sweetcorn of the next one.

At the moment, we are trying to avoid calorific food, but I am determined that does not mean that we will miss out on flavour. This is easy when you can pack your salads and other dishes with loads of fresh herbs, but as we near the end of the herbs in the garden, I am looking to spices to plug the gap. And they are doing a great job.

My Sister just had her hen do, and I made everyone roasted aubergine with a chermoula spice rub. Partly because I was doing vegetarian, and also partly as part of my quest to make more middle eastern food.

When I found a couple of aubergines in the fridge, I initially thought I was going to make a chermoula and aubergine soup. When you roast or burn aubergine in its skin, it develops a lovely smoky, silky texture, as you can see from Baba Ganoush and similar dips. That was also going to give the soup a richness without the need for fat or cream, which is perfect for how I’m trying to eat at the moment.

As I kept poking, the fridge also relinquished some tomatoes and half a red pepper. In the spirit of not wasting food, I decided that they could go in the soup as well. And since I was already roasting the aubergines, I may as well roast these too, making the oven use more efficient, making it easier to peel the veg, and also to develop a bit of flavour, especially of the later developing vegetables that may not quite reach their full potential.

At this time of year, the sweetcorn are just appearing too. The Big Guy loves fresh corn, and we had a few cobs, though not yet from our garden. Since the soup was to be spicy and smoky, I didn’t want to just let the golden little kernels cook in the soup itself, I wanted them to add to the overall smoky flavour, so I decided to put a cob under the grill until the kernels were browned.

I had also intended to use some preserved lemons to add to the soup, in keeping with the chermoula idea. I was going to chop them fine, and use them to garnish the soup, but when I tasted it, it definitely didn’t need a sour salty note. Instead, I opted for a spoonful of yoghurt, to counter the fact that the chilli I had used was much hotter than expected!

This soup is great for the start of September, as the summer turns to autumn, and the nights get that bit colder. And it turns out that aubergines are great to add creaminess to a soup without the need for dairy too.

Recipe: Spiced and Silken Roast Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

2 medium aubergines

½ red pepper

6-8 tomatoes

4 cloves of garlic, still in their skins

salt and pepper

2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil

1 cob of corn, with the husk removed

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped

1 tsp ground coriander

750 ml vegetable stock

2 tbsp natural yoghurt

Method

Heat the oven to 200 °C

Cut the aubergine and the tomatoes in half. Arrange the aubergines, pepper and tomatoes in an ovenproof dish, and season with the salt and pepper. Slosh over 1 tbsp of the oil, and toss the veg to coat with the oil. You want the aubergine and tomato cut side up; but the pepper skin side up, because you want it to char.

Put in the oven to roast for 30-40 minutes, until the vegetables have taken on a bit of colour. After about 15 minutes, add the garlic cloves, so that they don’t burn to a crisp. You want them to be golden and soft, not crunchy.

Once the vegetables are roasted, put the grill on high, and put the corn underneath it. You will need to turn it as it cooks. If you have a separate grill, which I don’t, you can do this at the same time, it may take a while.

Meanwhile, dry fry the cumin until it is fragrant, then grind to a fine powder in a pestle and mortar, or a spice grinder.

Sweat the onion in the rest of the oil, until translucent. Add the chilli and cook for another minute on a gentle heat, then add the spices, and just cook through.

Squeeze the garlic from their skins, and add to the spice and onion. Allow to sweat on a gentle heat while you scrape the creamy flesh from the aubergine. Add this to the saucepan, and cook for 2-3 minutes to combine the flavour.

The tomato and pepper should also be really easy to skin as well by now. Mine just slipped off. Discard the skins, as these are indigestible, and hopefully the pepper skin will have blackened and blistered, so will be bitter and unpleasant anyway.

Add the flesh of the tomatoes and the pepper, along with any juices in the roasting dish to the saucepan. Add the stock, and bring to the boil. Cover the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Blend the soup with an immersion blender or a food processor, until it is smooth and rich.

Run a knife down the corn, to remove the kernels, which should be brown and succulent, not black.

Divide the soup between 2 bowls, add a tablespoon of yoghurt to each, and sprinkle the corn kernels over the top.

Perfect to come home to after a day’s foraging, whether that be outside or in the fridge!

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Simple Ways to Avoid Onion Breath

Sliced Red Onion

Not Your Lunch Time Friend

Raw onion: a lot like Marmite, it is a very divisive ingredient in any dish. Alliums in general are used to impart flavour to a wide range of food, both raw and cooked, but they are pungent and packed with sulphur compounds that make you cry and give you bad breath.

There is a growing trend amongst lunch venues to put red onion in a variety of salads and sandwiches almost everywhere I have been or travelled to. Why do they do this? Apart from making me really thirsty, raw onions are a little antisocial, especially if you have to return to breathe onion fumes all over your colleagues, and anyone that you happen to be having a meeting with that afternoon. I also think it is really lazy. There are several easy ways to avoid this, without compromising on flavour or crunch.

If I am going to be using shallots in a salad dressing, or taboulleh, I address the problem by soaking them in the vinegar of the dressing before I add the rest of the ingredients. A good 10 minutes in the vinegar will reduce the affect of sulphur compounds, as well as develop the flavour.

Similarly, if I am going to make guacamole, a 10 minute pre-soak of the onion in the lime juice sorts out the problem of onion breath. It really isn’t difficult, and in reality doesn’t add loads of time to your prep, you can do it first, then get on with another element of your salad.

I have been eating a lot of salads, not just because of the 52 Week Salad Challenge, but also because they are healthy, low in fat and they are a great way of tasting the best of the seasons.

In the past, I have omitted the raw onion in a salad, but there are a couple that really are made better by the crunch and flavour of onion, but I don’t benefit from the unquenchable thirst I get when I’ve eaten them in any amount.

Panzanella is one of my favourite salads, but it loses a lot by leaving out the onion. Keeping the onion slices as crunchy as possible is also integral to the necessary contrasts of the dish too. For this reason, soaking it in the vinegar is not the best way forward, as this will reduce the crispness of the bite a little.

I am sharing my recipe for panzanella, because it contains the easiest tip for avoiding onion breath, it’s a fantastic salad, and it uses up leftover bread. What’s not to like?

Panzanella

Scented With Summer, Not Onions

Recipe: Panzanella

Ingredients

This will serve two people on its own, or 5 as a side dish

4 thick slices of stale bread, cut into large cubes

400 g tomatoes, different varieties, if you can get hold of them. They need to be ripe, and at room temperature.

½ cucumber, in large dice

1 red onion, finely sliced

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp blackberry vinegar, or red wine vinegar if you don’t have blackberry

1 tbsp capers

6-8 anchovy fillets (optional)

salt and pepper

15-20 basil leaves

Method

If the bread you are using is not stale (although this salad is much better with stale bread), you can dry out the bread in a low oven, or one that has been turned off from cooking something else.

Chop and slice the tomatoes. If you have pretty heirloom varieties, slice some of these and set aside as a decorative touch later. I was using a mix of varieties, which included marmande, plum, tigerella and black Russian. I put the red ones into the salad, and sliced the tigerella and black Russian for the plate.

Combine the cucumber, tomatoes and bread in a large bowl, and set aside.

Cover the onion slices in boiling water, and leave them there for about 2-3 minutes. This removes the sulphur from the onion, but does not cook it, so you still get the crunch, but none of the bad breath. Drain the onion, and leave to drip while you make the dressing.

Whisk together the oil, vinegar, capers and the chopped anchovy fillets. Adjust the acidity or oil to taste, but bear in mind that the tomatoes are also going to add acidity. Season well with salt and pepper.

Add the onions and the dressing to the salad, and mix well. Set aside to allow the flavours to develop for at least a couple of hours, or overnight in the fridge, if you can, but serve it at room temperature.

Just before you serve, roughly tear the basil leaves and mix them in.

If you like, you can add punchy salad leaves, like spinach, mizuna and rocket to add extra bulk. Do this when you add the basil, or the dressing will cook them.

This is a great salad to serve at a barbecue, or summer picnic, or as a side dish. It is also the tastiest way to use up leftover bread.

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Of Gluts and Gluttony

Courgette & tomato "Pasta"

Courgetti Spaghetti

Have you ever planted too many courgettes, or even had an exceptional year, and not known what to do with your excess? I’m sure that this has happened at some time to most gardeners, and you have been desperately trying to give them away to friends, relatives, passing students, and anyone who knocks at the door. Not to mention trying to pickle, grate or shove them into fritters, soups, salads, stews, cakes and on your breakfast.

This year, many of the courgettes seem to have got off to a very slow start, due to the weather, but we are now finally starting to see them take off.

This is a recipe that I use both to use up excess courgettes, and also because it is a tasty, and unusual take on a ratatouille.  It is also a low carb alternative to pasta, as well as being a quick and easy supper.

I have made this for many years. Sometimes, I make it even lighter, by keeping the cherry tomatoes whole, leaving out the onion, and grating in some lemon zest. I find this version needs a little more parmesan, and that you need to mix this in over the hob.

This courgette pasta is actually a version of Pasta Neapolitan.Using the courgette as pasta is also a nice alternative with many other pasta sauces – I have also tried it with al’arrabiata and puttanesca to great effect, but I also imagine it would be good with pesto, carbonara, mushroom-based sauces, and even bolognese, if you are careful not to add too much liquid  to the sauce.

I like to use herbs liberally in this dish, for an extra fresh kick. Always thyme, and I like to add oregano. Rosemary or basil would also work well. Play around with it, and see what you like best.

Simple & in Season Blog Badge

I am entering this into Simple an in Season for August, hosted by Ren of Fabulicious Food. There is nothing more seasonal than using a glut of your vegetables, and this dish really couldn’t be simpler.

If you do try this recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know which herbs you used, I’m always interested to hear what people have done with my recipes, and learn new variations.

Recipe: Courgetti Spaghetti

Ingredients

1 Medium onion, finely diced

A Little olive oil for frying

2 Cloves garlic, crushed to a paste

4-5 Sprigs thyme, leaves only

200 g Cherry tomatoes, halved

2 Courgettes

A little lemon juice

2 Large sprigs oregano, leaves only, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

A little freshly grated parmesan cheese to serve

Method

Sweat the onion off in a little olive oil, until the onion pieces are translucent. Add the garlic and thyme and cook out for a minute.

Add the cherry tomatoes, and cover the pan, to encourage the tomatoes to break down and cook out. Once the tomatoes have broken down a bit, uncover the pan, and allow to cook down on a low heat.

Top and tail the courgettes. Using a mandoline, and being careful of your fingers, make juliennes of the entire length of the courgette, to resemble spaghetti. You can julienne them by hand if you don’t have a mandoline, but this is time-consuming. Instead, take a vegetable peeler and peel the courgette lengthways to give you thin papardelle sized strips.

Cover the courgette strips with cold water with a little lemon juice in. This will stop the courgette from browning, while the sauce  cooks down.

When the sauce has been cooing for at least 15 minutes, and has thickened a bit, blanch the courgette strips in boiling salted water for 2 minutes. You want the courgette to retain some bite, but take the raw edge off. Drain well, and leave in a colander, for at least 10 minutes. You can squeeze a splash more lemon juice over them to prevent browning.

Because the courgette is much more watery than normal pasta, you want to cook the sauce down until it is fairly thick, otherwise the courgette will flood the sauce and dilute it.

When the sauce is almost too thick, add the oregano and mix through. Continue to cook on a low heat, and taste. You can add a little sugar (less than ¼ tsp) if you think you need a little more of the tomato flavour to come through. If you use very ripe tomatoes, you should not need this.

Add te well-drained courgette to the sauce, over the heat. You just want to combine the sauce and the courgette. The courgette is likely to start giving off water, so keep the heat on low while you mix  it all in, and season it to taste. Remove from the heat, and serve immediately, with a little parmesan cheese. Or leave the cheese off, for a simple, seasonal, vegan supper.

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Bill’s Tomato Pasta and So Much More

Bill Grangers Tomato Pasta, Tomato Dressing & a Green Salad

Back to Work Dinner

The thing about coming half way around the world is that the seasons are back to front. We are in full summer right now, with the lovely fruit and vegetables that go with it.

I made this recipe for a friend who had kindly put us up for our wonderful week in Sydney. It is one of her favourites, and so I decided to make it for her to help her ease back to work after Christmas. She likes the dish, because the ingredients are very basic, and simple, but as long as they are chosen (or grown) well, they really are more than the sum of their parts.

The tomatoes take a little preparation. Being the lazy type, I often don’t bother to do this. But, as they are the star in this dish,  it really is worth the effort.

It is a Bill Granger recipe, from his book Sydney Food, published by Murdoch Books. I have reproduced it here, simply because, in my usual no-waste style, there is so much that you can do with what most people would discard from this recipe, which I have given at the end of the pasta recipe.

This is a great summer dish, whether your summer comes in December or in June.

Recipe: Bill’s Tomato Pasta

Ingredients

1 kg vine tomatoes – or really ripe ones from your garden

1 tbsp sea salt

120 ml extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

2 garlic cloves

1 lemon – juice and zest

1 small red chilli, finely chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

400 g spaghetti, 100 g per person

1 bunch basil, leaves removed from stalks

Shaved Parmesan to serve

Method

Firstly, wash the tomato and the vine. Do not discard the vine, as it imparts a lot of flavour, and you know I hate to waste anything!

Then plunge the tomatoes into boiling water for 10 seconds, and refresh in iced water or under a running tap. I prefer the iced water, because you can use it to water plants with, once the ice has melted, and the water is at room temperature. The skin should be splitting from the tomato, and should be quite easy to peel at this stage. If it isn’t plunge it back into the boiling water for a few seconds, and refresh again. As you will not be able to do all of the tomatoes at once, I keep a pan of water boiling on the stove for this recipe. Again, you can use the water afterwards for tea (so you haven’t wasted the energy it took to boil it either!), or put it in your water butt or pot plants.

The only part of the tomato that I haven’t found a use for is the skin,which is normally indigestible, so on its own I don’t really know what to do with it. The skins go in my wormery, so I get some use from them eventually. If anyone has any suggestions, please do leave them in the comments.

Once you have peeled your tomatoes, cut them in half, and remove the seeds and the watery pulp. Please don’t throw this away, as you will be throwing away a lot of useful flavour. Instead, collect it in a bowl, and we’ll come back to it later.

Roughly chop the flesh of the tomato. Then place it in a sieve, and sprinkle with the sea salt. Leave it over a bow for at least half an hour, to draw out more moisture. This will make your dish as flavourful as possible. Don’t discard the liquid run-off either, as this will be used up later, I promise.

Meanwhile, crush and finely chop the garlic. Mix this with the lemon zest and juice, vinegar, chopped chilli, pepper and olive oil. Put the tomatoes in this mixture once they have had a little while to steep in the salt. Mix this well, and then leave aside for 20 minutes to allow the flavours to meld.

Boil the spaghetti in plenty of salted water. Make sure it is still a little al dente. Drain, and then add it to the tomato mixture. Mix it up well, and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Tear the basil leaves and add them to the pasta.

Serve the pasta with parmesan shavings, best kept large and made with a vegetable peeler. I also served mine with a simple green salad, dressed with a dressing made from the tomato consommé, from the bits that we kept aside earlier.

Mel’s Multitude of Methods with Tomato “Waste”.

As promised, now we get to the bits that you kept aside earlier.

You should have the vine or truss that the tomatoes came on, the juice and seeds from the tomatoes, and the liquid run off from the salted tomato flesh. Good. Firstly, break up the tomato vine into bits a couple of cm long. Then, mix all three tomato “waste” products, and pass them through a sieve. The vine will give this an intense tomato flavour. You can either allow this to drip through on its own for a clear liquid, or you can push this pulpy mixture through with the back of a spoon, whereby the liquid will be red. Congratulations, you have now made  tomato consommé!

Tomato Consommé

Treasure, not trash!

At this stage, fish the vines back out of the sieve, and compost them. Tip the seeds out, and dry them on some kitchen paper. When they are dry, pick off any remaining pulp (which will go mouldy) and then put them in an envelope (write tomato seeds on the envelope, so you know what they are). Next spring, put them in soil, and water it regularly, and you will likely get new tomatoes! If you use organic tomatoes, this is almost certain. Some supermarket tomatoes may not germinate, because they are F1 or hybrids, but you will have lost nothing by giving it a go. Especially if you have reused an old envelope, and written on it in pencil!

The consommé can be used for a million things. It will be intensely flavoured, and slightly acid, like the tomatoes from which it came. I made a dressing for the green salad I served with the pasta dish. I mixed 2 tbsp tomato consommé with salt, pepper, a splash of white balsamic vinegar, and then enough extra virgin olive oil to make a nice emulsion.

If you have enough, chilled consommé makes a delicious soup for a starter, just garnish it with some basil before serving.

The consommé freezes well, and can be added to soups, stews, and other tomato pasta sauces (for which you do not need to freeze it, but it will keep longer). We froze ours in an ice cube tray, and when they are frozen, we will put them into a plastic bag to save space.

Consomme to Freeze, and a Salad Dressing

Many Methods with Consommé

Tomato consommé can be added to cocktails , but it is probably too light for a bloody mary. If you make your own ketchup, add with the sugar to intensify the tomato taste. In fact, pretty much any sauce that has tomatoes in will benefit from its addition.

If you want to be really cheffy, freeze it in a block. Once frozen, scrape it with a fork. The resulting crystals can be used as “tomato snow” on very delicate dishes. This is so easy, but you pay a fortune for it in a restaurant. People will also think you are an aspiring Heston, without you having to go anywhere near liquid nitrogen!

The possibilities to use this flavourful liquid are endless. How will you use yours?

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